For the past few days, I have been using a friend's car to get to work. She doesn't have the wonderful satellite radio I listen to, so I'm stuck with the local stations and programming. When I got into the car, it was tuned to a relentlessly, almost fearsomely cheerful Christian radio station. The past few days they've been telling me everything wonderful about the Obama inauguration and the "classy way" that George Bush and family left the White House. (I should note that these people are probably not big Obama fans--hard to say, but that would be my guess.)
This kind of cheerfulness, particularly in the morning--which, I believe, should only be experienced as a matter of staying up until dawn, never a matter of rising to greet it--would normally be enough to drive me out of my mind.
But this morning, getting out of my car, I thought, "Why not?" Why not look at all the good things in the world and celebrate them in preference to dragging myself and others down with my relentless carping and complaining. That isn't to say that I need to like everything. I don't need to, and no matter what kind of pep talk I give myself, I won't. But it does mean that there needs to be a fundamental attitude adjustment--I need to stop looking for things to not like. It's a habit that I probably developed in college as we did all of our lit studies. You were taught to dissect a work and see what things worked together and what didn't, but no one ever taught real appreciation for a work of art. Instead it was a kind of weighing of things you liked against those you did not with a judgment at the end.
No one has to like everything. No one has to like all parts of any given thing. It is a service to alert people to things they may not like, but it is not a service to go out and look for things they may not like. I don't do that consciously, but it is a tendency I fight all the time. I am the anti-Christian radio station--relentlessly downbeat.
That said, not much of it comes through here, mercifully--and I will take pains in the future that less of it does so. Why? Because, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Not just rejoice, but be glad--appreciate the good things of each day--the moments when we can become aware that God really is with us. We rejoice in His presence and we are glad in the goodness of the world. Yes, newsflash for Catholics with Calvinist Tendencies (CCT for short) the world is Good. As part of creation, it cannot be otherwise. But the world is also fallen and so there is a large share of bad things that take place in it. The Christian Radio Station seems to understand this--while relentlessly cheerful and supportive, it nevertheless announces the need for blankets (we're having a cold snap here (praise God--natural mosquito control)), food for food pantries, and worker for soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The world is a fundamentally good place where bad things can happen because of people. People who, like the world, are fundamentally good but who choose to do things that fly in the face of God and the rest of humanity. Humankind is not "utterly depraved" by the fall, even though we cannot through our own mertis achieve salvation.
The fundamental goodness of the world and of the people in it requires our attention, our nurturing, our time. I can choose to look for what displeases me and thereby satisfy some difficult and distorted itch--giving in to that fallen side of my nature. Or, I can choose to see the goodness, beauty, and glory with which creation is imbued, while not turning away from the ugliness people and natural evil (disasters, etc.) can cause. Acknowledging the imperfections of the world does not mean dwelling on them (the tendency I've cited before). It can be done while still looking beyond them to the grace that gives them life and purpose.